As each day passes in Jacksonville, the 2017 MLS season creeps ever closer.
NYCFC have been fine-tuning in Florida for the past nine days and RJ Allen has half an eye on what’s coming up the pike.
The team have three days of training and a scrimmage game against Jacksonville University before heading south to Guayaquil for a prestigious friendly against Ecuadorian giants, Emelec and RJ is forecasting a “tremendous experience” on February, 8.
He told NYCFC.com: “It’s going to be really exciting, it’s a great opportunity for us.
“Obviously we’re travelling to a country with a different culture and a team with a different playing style, so it’ll be a great test to see where we’re at in preseason.
“We played against Necaxa last year which was a tremendous experience for our club and for all of us as players, so I know we’re all looking forward to it.”
Allen signed a new deal with the club in the offseason – a fitting reward for an excellent 2016 season where he was a model of consistency.
Now in his third year at NYCFC, Allen feels a responsibility to welcome in the new faces and help them acclimatize to the way things are done on the training field under the regime of Head Coach Patrick Vieira.
“It’s great to be back – I’m feeling really fresh,” he said, “The guys who have come in have shown that they're ready to work hard and there's a great spirit.
“The new guys have had to adjust coming in from college – I’ve done it myself, so I’ve been in their shoes and it can be tough but they're doing well.
"There’s a bunch of new faces and there are some leadership roles that guys had last year who are no longer here, so those roles need to be filled.
“I think that we can all do that through faith, trust and working hard as I’ve tried to do for the last few years – that’s part of the leadership roles I’m talking about.
“I’m someone who likes to work hard and get my head down and everyone else is following suit, so we’re in a really good spot right now.”
Allen went on to say that he believes the season ahead will be even better than the one that preceded it, thanks to the blend of continuity and new faces, as well as a better understanding of the system implemented by Vieira.
RJ added: “It’s nice to have the familiarity with the system – whenever you know what the manager wants of you and where you need to be at in certain spots. It only aids us as a team, on both sides of the game.
“There’s also camaraderie with the new guys already and that's important – there are guys who have been here for two, three years and a lot for the last one with Patrick. There’s definitely some work still to be done but it’s been great for us to be back.”